Monday, May 9, 2011

The Native Americans

I found the following video over at Anishinaabekwe.  I was originally going to just link to it on Saturday's Drop it Like it's Hot, but after more thought, I really believe that it needs to be highlighted.


We do not want your civilization; we would live as our fathers lived and our fathers before them - Crazyhorse. In 1993 the skulls of six of the victims of the Sandcreek massacre were finally returned to the Cheyenne People for a proper burial. Stored with thousands of others for over a hundred years, these skulls had been severed from the bodies and sent to the Smithsonian Institute to be examined by scientists.  There are more remains of Indian people stored in institutions in this country than there are living Indians.

Man praying: God look down upon us, grant us your mercy. Our relatives: we are now here, we have come for you. We are taking you back home.

W.Richard West: Speaking as a Cheyenne, I can tell you that it is extremely important from our standpoint to have the human remains taken from that place and returned to home.  It fits into our whole cosmologically view of what has to be done for those who have passed from this world and are in the other world and so from that standpoint there is no doubt that it is critical that these human remains be returned. And for the tribe I think that it represents a resolution of a history that has basically torn Indian societies apart.

Perhaps you think the creator sent you here to dispose of us as you see fit.  If I thought you were sent by the creator I might be induced to think that you had the right to dispose of me. Do not misunderstand me but understand me fully with reference for my respect for the land. I never said that the land was mine to dispose of it as I choose; the one who has the right to dispose of it is the one who has created it. I claim the right to live on my land and accord you the privilege to return and live on yours.

Following the Sandcreek massacre the division between the warrior societies and the council of 44 peace chiefs became wider, so when the winter camp was set up along the banks of the Washata on the western part of our reservation, November of 1868 Blackkettle was not allowed to camp with the main body.

In an effort to disperse groups of threatening Cheyenne warriors enraged by the massacre at Sandcreek, the government ordered Black kettle to locate his village on the Washata river in Indian territory, where other tribes had been located. Black Kettle and the peace chiefs compliance was ignored by Col. Geroge Custard [and] his 7th Calvary.  In the early hours of a frigid morning, Custard commanded the troops to descend on the Cheyenne village.

At the outset of this so called battle of the Washata Black Kettle was killed. The United States government condoned Custard's brutal killing of helpless elders, women and children on the Washata river to assure the White settlers they were controlling the Indian problem. Over the next several years, atrocity after atrocity was presented to the American public as a battle, or a skirmish or a campaign, rather than a systematic killing.  Our people were herded together on reservations and forced to survive on sparse government rations.

The voices of people like Black Kettle who had resolutely continued to stand for peace, were silenced by the bullets of Whites.  There are thousands whose acts of bravery in these acts of destruction who will never be known. 

For the Plains Indians the twin rails of iron that snaked ominously onto the prairies from the east in the 1860's were a fatal incision in the beloved earth. The railroads signaled the demise of our live blood, the great buffalo.  What the Indian had revered the White man defiled with slaughter, taking only the hides and leaving the carcases to rot in the prairie sun. By the early 1880's a population of 60 million buffalo had been reduced to a paltry few thousand.

Darell Robes Kipp (Blackfeet): The buffalo were exterminated in 1884.  At that point at that summer, they went on their last hunt. They could find very few buffalo to sustain them. Immediately that fall, the government came in and they went throughout the region, as far as you can see, and they brought the Blackfeet, what remained of the tribe right here. The government took their horses from them and disarmed them and the Blackfeet camped here waiting to be supplied with rations and the annuities that had been promised to them in exchange for land. The only supplies that was brought to them during this bleak period which is one wagonload of food which was brought to them from Helena, south of us about 200 miles. The irony was, in Helena at that time, you could go to the opera, you could eat a magnificent meal, imported wines, for less than a dollar.  As January [and] February the most sever months came the Blackfeeet started dying of starvation. It is estimated that out of the 3000+ that came here, over 1600 of them died of starvation.

But to heal a five year journey was made on horseback, retracing the route taken by the chief Big Foot and his band 100 years ago.

Yeah my son rode in that. He was 12 years old and Okala he was 11. He said I am going to ride in that journey. I had told him the story of my grandfather's mother, my great grandmother and the story that she told was how she cried, not only for Sitting Bull, but also for herself, for her people. She wondered if she would ever live to have children. So my son said, I am going to go on that ride because I don't want my great great grandmother to have cried for nothing.

Another young Lakota Afraid of Hawk was just 8 when he joined the final ride.  My great grandfather was with Big Foot at wounded knee. He was only ten years old. When the soldiers started shooting he hid in a creek gully.  Then he ran up the creek and escaped into the hills. The first four winters I watched by dad leave with the horses for the ride, I really wanted to go so much. Dec 28th, the last day my ancestors were alive 100 years ago, our prayer circle had the most riders yet -350. All the riders were quiet. They knew that this is the day that Big Foot was walking towards death. Dec 29th, we went back to the grave site to honour the dead. Hundreds of Lakota people were there to listen and watch.  There were women covered with blankets crying near the ancestors graves. I saw how much everyone was hurt for the last 100 years but I felt very proud. I was a Big Foot rider now, not a little kid. When I get older, I am going to tell my children and grand children about wounded knee.

Great spirit, once more behold me on earth and lean to hear my feeble voice. Hear me not for myself, but for me people. Hear me so that they may once more go back into the sacred hoop and find the good red road, the shielding tree. Make my people live Black Elk.

Whiteness has written most of the history studied in schools and that is why it is imperative to hear the truth told from the point of view of marginalized bodies. After watching this video, can there by any doubt of the harm that colonization caused, and continues to cause to Native Americans?  The truth may be difficult to hear but no one can achieve healing with it.